Class 5 Become World War II Evacuees for the Day!
Class 5 had an absolutely magical experience to conclude their World War II topic this half term, travelling back to the early 1940s as evacuee children and riding on a steam train from the Cotswold market town of Winchcombe!
Our brave pupils arrived at school early in the morning on the day that the evacuation took place, all dressed in amazingly authentic early-1940s attire with their name tags, basic rationed lunches, and of course those all-important gas mask boxes, with the excited members of Bosbury School staff accompanying them certainly looking the part as well!
It was then time for everyone to step on board a very sophisticated (and very comfortable!) time-travelling coach, to be whisked away eighty years into the past to Winchcombe Station. On arrival, they met up with a very friendly farm lady who would be their guide for the day, taking them on a tour of the platform they would be boarding the train from.
Our evacuees then waited eagerly yet apprehensively for their special transport to arrive, with nerves perhaps not being helped by news from their guide that a German spy could well be on the loose in the area, meaning that they would have to keep their eyes especially peeled and remember not to divulge any secrets or information about the British war effort!
The majestic steam engine then arrived at the station, and, with a final spiritual wave goodbye to their parents and an uplifting burst of popular wartime morale-boosting song It's a Long Way to Tipperary which totally captivated the members of the public at the station, so much so that our young evacuees even received a round of applause, it was time to board their special vintage transport. As you can see, even Air Raid Warden Ponter was looking very sad indeed at the prospect of being separated from friends and family!
Once on the carriage, the children must have been wondering what sort of family they would be sent to stay with in the countryside, but luckily, their nerves were eased when Lady McManus, the kind and very divine Billeting Officer who had been assigned to look after this particular group of evacuees, gave out some much-needed wartime biscuits!
With their moods boosted by the additional welcome sugar, our evacuees sought to keep their morale high by breaking out into a wonderful melody of further wartime classics. Just take a listen to their wonderful singing!
Their jollity soon turned to great concern however, drawing the adults' attention to a mysterious-looking gentlemen onboard the carriage who spoke with a strong German accent, asking if he was on the right train to go to London.
When the gentleman suspiciously asked Mr. Ponter if it was a letter 'A' displayed on his headwear, even though surely all adults in England must have known that wardens were identified by the letter 'W', our super sleuths, showing great powers of deduction, felt that they had obtained sufficient enough evidence to vocally alert the adults on board that a German spy was indeed amongst them!
The train swiftly returned to Winchcombe in order to avoid revealing to the intruder where the evacuees were being taken to, and, thankfully, Lady McManus and a fellow colleague supervising another group of evacuees on board were on hand to escort the suspect off the carriage and apprehend him on the platform!
With this threat having safely been turned over to the authorities, the guide felt that the children may as well make the most of having been taken back to Winchcombe by getting them to practise another vitally important skill in order to deal with the enemy - the art of pumping water and using hoses in order to put out fires which may have resulted from German bombing. As you can see from the videos below, their teamwork and aim with the water into the target buckets was highly commendable, even impressing the ever-watchful eye of ARP Warden Ponter!
While waiting for another train to take them back into the safety of the countryside, a local teacher was available to invite the children into her classroom setting at the station, where the evacuees gained a further fascinating insight into the clothes and toys which children just like them back in the 1940s wore and used to entertain themselves. As you can see, our young evacuees really enjoyed trying on some of the authentic outfits, and we think some of the wartime attire really suited them!
It was a good job that the children had been given in-depth training on how to safely extinguish fires, as, just when they had exited the classroom, the dreaded sound of the air raid siren blasted out over the station!
The guide quickly ushered the party into the bomb shelter over on the opposite platform, and, as you can see from the video below, even the adults were quite concerned at what the raid might entail!
Fortunately, everyone present was well-protected by the shelter, even if it was still a very unnerving experience hearing the bombs dropping around them. It turned out to be vital however that everyone remained in the shelter even after it appeared that the bombing had stopped however, as a second wave proceeded to drop around the area.
There was even the unmistakeable and truly frightening sound of a V1 Flying Bomb, also known as a Doodlebug, which were particularly nasty weapons launched by the Nazis during the latter years of the war. These early cruise missiles could travel up to 160 miles, powered by a small pulsejet before reaching and exploding against a target in England. Very scary indeed, as you can tell from some of the worried faces of our brave evacuees!
The children emerged from shelter to find the station thankfully completely unscathed, with the Doodlebug having been confirmed to have landed several miles away - phew! To celebrate, Lady McManus felt it was the perfect time for the hungry party to tuck into their lunches, packaged in authentic brown paper packaging and consisting of wartime classics such as dry bread, cheese (but only in small quantities of course - this luxury was being heavily rationed at the time), pickles, salted crisps and maybe even the odd ginger biscuit with a flask of tea! Reports that something called Nice 'n' Spicy Nik Naks had found its way into some lunchboxes are still unfounded.
Even after lunchtime, the next evacuation train had still not arrived, but, as luck would again have it, the children were then given the invaluable experience of listening to first-hand accounts from two evacuees in their 80s who had actually lived through the war years. Lady McManus and ARP Warden Ponter were so impressed with how respectful the children were, listening intently to the fascinating experiences shared by people from a special generation which is slowly becoming more and more scarce.
Thankfully for our younger evacuees however, the guide then declared to them that the threat of an attack from the Luftwaffe against the metropolises of Bosbury, Ledbury and other surrounding smaller cities was now officially deemed low enough for them to safely return home.
Even though many of the children appeared quite sad and disappointed that their evacuee experience was over, there was one more big surprise waiting for them back on the posh time-travelling coach (no, not ARP Warden Ponter falling down the stairs after the coach turned sharply while he was assisting evacuees in getting their luggage back on the parcel shelves) - Lady McManus gave each child (as well as the Air Raid Warden!) a special sealed envelope, containing a heartfelt letter from their parents wishing them all the very best on their evacuation adventure and saying how much they will miss them. Some of the messages were so emotional that even a few tears were seen to be shed!
Well done to all of our amazing evacuees for behaving so impeccably during this fantastic trip, and for really embracing such a special experience to the full. A huge, HUGE thank you to Lady McManus for all of her hard work in organizing such a magical day for the pupils - it really did feel like we had all been transported back to the early 1940s for the day!
Thank you also to ARP Warden Ponter for accompanying the children on the trip and taking charge of a first aid kit which was fortunately not needed despite the air raid which took place, and to Simon for taking such fantastic photos and videos throughout the trip. The suitably black-and-white sepia images looked absolutely superb on Class 5's already-brilliant World War II displays, and a full gallery of all photos taken on the day (both in black-and-white and early glorious technicolour!) can be found below.
We'll leave you with another lovely rendition of Tipperary from the beautiful singing voices of our happy evacuees, and remember, even during the uncertain times which we STILL continue to face eighty years later...
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON!